Upon leaving the US Army, some seek a quiet life. That wasn't the case for Joseph Hunter, or two veterans he recruited for "ninja work," including hit jobs earning them $35,000 each, Assistant US Attorney Patrick Egan said Tuesday in opening statements at the men's trial in New York. Prosecutors say 52-year-old Hunter, a former sergeant with Special Forces training, was head of security for South African crime boss Paul Le Roux before recruiting Adam Samia, 43, and Carl David Stillwell, 50, per the AP. Samia, a former sniper, and Stillwell, an ex-weapons trainer, then traveled to the Philippines, where they allegedly set their sights on a real estate agent on Le Roux's "kill list." Pretending to be potential clients, the men drove Catherine Lee to the countryside outside Manila in 2012 before Samia shot her twice in the face, Egan says.
The murder is just one element of a bizarre case covering drug trafficking, the sinking of a smuggling ship, and other events in the Philippines, Africa, Mexico, and the Seychelles, the New York Times reports. Le Roux, arrested by DEA agents in Liberia in 2012, is expected to testify against the alleged henchmen, all three of whom deny the murder charges. Le Roux previously helped the government set up a sting operation that saw Hunter admit to planning to kill a DEA agent and an informant on Le Roux's orders. Hunter was sentenced to 20 years in prison but will see his sentence grow if convicted of the latest charges. Defense attorneys say Le Roux isn't to be believed, per the AP. The trial, held in federal court in Manhattan as the investigation stemmed from alleged drug trafficking in New York, is expected to last a few weeks.